Women’s Voices Unplugged: Aural Disturbances and Buddhism Debased
With Andrew Dade, Doctoral Candidate, University of Toronto
Respondent: Penny Edwards, University of California Berkeley
On the evening of Friday, 23 Sept., 2016, a sleepless Dutch tourist unplugged an amplifier broadcasting a women’s live recitation from within a Buddhist community hall in Mandalay. Some of the offended community members demanded the tourist’s arrest and pressed charges. The Mandalay courts sentenced the tourist to three months in prison without bail (lowered from two years after pleading) for disturbing a religious assembly under Chapter 15, Section 296 of the Burmese Penal Code. The event and its lawsuit drew international attention within concurrent mediations of Rohingya genocide and Burmese Buddhist nationalism.
In this chapter work-in-progress, I assemble journalistic, legal, and ethnographic documentation of the event in order to highlight disciplines of source production and my own narrativizing motivations. Technical and affective assessments of literacy and legibility reoccur through the documentation. I point to the limits of disciplined media production (i.e. what narratives hold over others? Why?) and my role in upholding, challenging, or layering a naïve realism where polyvocal sources “speak for themselves.” Taking inspiration from a direct quote from one of the women involved in the event, I conclude by introducing an apocryphal genre experiment that is part two of the chapter-in-progress.
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This event is part of the Burma Past and Present: Religion, Ethnicity and Power, a series of readings and discussion of works in progress. We will be reading and discussing work in progress with the author. Please email email@example.com to receive a copy of the reading.